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Mediation between architecture, word, and image - the mihrab inscriptions of the Green Complex (1419-1424) for Sultan Mehmed I in Bursa

Thursday, November 24, 2022, 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm

Mediation between architecture, word, and image - the mihrab inscriptions of the Green Complex (1419-1424) for Sultan Mehmed I in Bursa 

I want to revisit the inscriptions under the following guiding
principles: What is the connection between site and message and how are multiple meanings layered? These general questions pertain to the special features of the mihrabs in the Green Complex of Mehmed I (1413-1421) and I will show how they mediate between site, politics, and architectural context. My talk will introduce concepts of layering, space, and kinetic experience, all of which were orchestrated in the inscription program of the Green Complex.

The niche of the mihrab presents a fascinating example, where
calligraphy, architectural form and verbal imagery complement each other. It is partly decorated with verses whose content would be suited for an apse as well. The tension between “iconic” versus “aniconic,” which is mediated through the calligraphic decoration is particularly valent in a place like Bursa. There, conversion efforts towards Islam were initiated by the Ottoman ruling class. Around that time, controversial figures like the mystic Sülyeman Çelebi (d.1422) marked the discourse on religious orthodoxy/heterodoxy. In addition to the theme of conversion, the architectural form, religious function, and epigraphic content align in the mihrab, for instance in the verses of the sura Al Imran (Q: 3:37). In this verse Zachary receives Mary in a cave, or a “mihrab,” the proverbial space of the inscription. It is obvious that such coherence is the result of a complex program designed together with the craftsmen active in the decoration process.

My talk aims to describe the position of the mihrab as the main
(religious) focal point of the extensive epigraphy within the building. This system creates a dialogue of Suras from the Koran, verses by Saadi, and- potentially - the local Christian population.

Veronika Poier is currently an Universitäst Assistant in Art History at the University of Vienna. After finishing her PhD in Islamic Art at Harvard University she taught the course „Narratives of the Past” at Sciences Po Paris. At the moment, Veronika is pursuing her book project on the Green Complex of Mehmed I. In this book she shows how Mehmed I established his rule with the claim to universal legitimacy, connecting themes resonating throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. In this context, Veronika is particularly interested in the actors and social groups, who preserved and spread technical and scientific know-how in times of concurrent warfare. 

You can attend the seminar either in person or via Zoom. 

Due to COVID regulations on campus, external guests need to register for events. If you are an external guest, please send an email to by November 23 at the latest. We will request a visitor card for you, which you can pick up from the reception desk when you arrive for the event on Thursday, November 24.

If you plan to attend online, the zoom link:…

Meeting ID: 992 4987 9292
Passcode: 587532

Time: Nov 24, 2022 05:30 PM Budapest